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Designers: Stop Caring So Much About Your Portfolio Site

Obsessive man laying on grass, perfection

About once a week, I browse around at reddit.com/r/design_critiques and give advice to new designers on how to improve their work and workflow. A recurring question I see all of the time is "Please critique my portfolio site".

Some of them are good, some of them need work, but the recurring theme is that they 1) hand-code their sites and 2) spend way too much time trying to get it "perfect".

It's a mistake I made when I was younger as well. But after working in the design industry for almost a decade, I've come to understand an uncomfortable truth:

No One Cares About Your Portfolio Site As Much As You Do.

The same Human Centered Design principles apply to your portfolio site as to any other design project you do for clients -- because clients are visiting your portfolio site. No client coming to your portfolio site cares about the animations you spent hours perfecting. They don't understand the graphs you put up indicating that you have a 90% understanding of Photoshop and a 76% understanding of InDesign. They probably have never even heard of half of the skills you put up. They are usually experts in fields other than design.

So What Do Clients Coming To Your Site Care About?

On a conscious level, they ask themselves these questions:

  • Who is this person? Do they seem nice?
  • Is their portfolio good? Do they have work that looks like the work I'm trying to hire someone for?
  • How much do they charge?

On a subconscious level, these factors are influencing them:

  • Can they find everything they're looking for quickly, and easily? (If not they'll just drop off)
  • Does the site speak in a voice that resonates with them? (If not they won't pursue you further)

If I see an over-designed portfolio site, that to me is a sign of someone who has too much time on their hands. Some of the best designers I know haven't updated their site in years except to occasionally add new STELLAR client work. They're too swamped in people asking for their services to worry about the perfect UI for their portfolio site.

Published by: Jamal Nichols in Brands

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